Public Broadcasting: A Half-Century of Public Service

Nov 6, 2017

On Tuesday, public broadcasting in America turns 50, and Montana Public Radio joins America in saluting this national treasure. In signing the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, President Johnson expressed the hope that one day, public television and radio stations would satisfy "America’s appetite for excellence" and "enrich man’s spirit."

That legislation created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which today supports nearly 1,500 public media stations across the country by distributing federal funding amounting to roughly $1.35 per citizen, per year. At MTPR, this investment is critical to our operations. Combined with listener donations, we leverage federal funding – many times over – to provide a welcoming space for childhood education and lifelong learning, the arts and culture, history, science, and civil discourse in Montana.

At a time when local news coverage is dramatically reduced, public media stations are expanding their journalism network, innovating in their storytelling and reaching audiences on platforms they prefer, anytime, anywhere.  In a recent survey, public radio stations have achieved the No. 1 ranking as the primary news source in 26 of the country’s top 50 markets, including western Montana.

President Johnson signing the public broadcasting act, Nov. 7, 1967.

Meanwhile, the much-beloved national programs that we have carried through years have educated, informed and inspired generations and strengthened our community, from NPR's "All Things Considered," to "This American Life" and "A Prairie Home Companion."

Public broadcasting was born during the height of the Vietnam War, which may explain our determination to find common ground on even the most difficult and divisive issues. Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s most recent documentary series, The Vietnam War, is a prime example. Stations have used the film as an opportunity to foster dialogue by helping our veterans and their families share their stories. For some of them, this is first time they’ve talked about their experience.

Despite the disruption and rapid changes shaping today’s media environment, public broadcasting’s mission is more necessary than ever. Montana Public Radio has been proud to support public broadcasting’s mission in western Montana for over 50 years. With your support, we'll continue to enrich the mind and spirit, inspire a lifetime of learning, and connect communities through access to exceptional programming.